Five Marines were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for their heroism while assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit during its 2012 deployment at a ceremony aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 3, 2013.
The Marines awarded included:
Gunnery Sgt. Joseph A. Alvarez, platoon commander, Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment
Sgt. Daniel J. Beers, motor transport non-commissioned officer-in-charge, Combat Logistics Battalion 24
Sgt. Christopher J. Ewain, assistant assault amphibious section leader, Alpha Co., BLT 1/2
Cpl. Michael Z. Pearson, assistant assault amphibious section leader, Alpha Co., BLT 1/2
Cpl. Steve T. Hanson, team leader, Bravo Co., BLT ½
Without regard for their own safety the Marines put their own lives in danger as the first responders to enter one of the 24th MEU's aircraft that crashed while participating in Exercise African Lion 12, a bilateral training event in Morocco, April 11, 2012.
During the mishap, two Marines sustained severe injuries while two others were mortally wounded while administering aid and attempting to rescue the crew.
"These Marines acted with courage, skill and precision that saved lives," said Col. Frank Donovan, the former commanding officer of 24th MEU who commanded the unit during the deployment, and who presented the awards during the ceremony.
"There was no hesitation with these five Marines," explained Donovan. "Debris still falling, engine still turning, fuel pouring out, these Marines broke into the side of the cabin wanting to recover a fellow Marine. Why did they do it? They did it for a fellow Marine. That's what it's all about."
A sixth Marine, Sgt. Merritt C. Huntley, a mortar section leader with Alpha Co., BLT 1/2, was not present during the ceremony due to training commitments but will be awarded the medal at a later date. The billets listed were the ones held by each Marine during the deployment.
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is the highest non-combatant medal awarded by the Department of the Navy to members of the U. S. Navy and U. S. Marine Corps.
The medal may be awarded to service members who distinguish themselves by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy, while serving in any capacity with the Navy or Marine Corps. Typically, it is awarded for actions involving the risk of one's own life.